NFL Draft Focus: Carolina Panthers

DraftAmerica talks with the Charlotte Observer’s Joe Person about the Carolina Panthers’ outlook. As is well-known by now, the Panthers own the first overall pick in the 2011 Draft after finishing an NFL-worst 2-14 last season. With a new head coach in tow and Andrew Luck out of the running, the focus could shift to shoring up the defense.


Total Yards:         32nd (258.4)

Rushing Yards:    13th (115.4)

Passing Yards:    32nd (143.1)

Points Scored:    32nd (12.3)


Total Yards:          18th (335.9)

Rushing Yards:      23rd (123.8)

Passing Yards:      11th (212.1)

Points Allowed:      26th (25.5)

Interceptions:        T-11th (17)

Sacks:                 T-20th (31)


Passing Yards:     Jimmy Clausen (1,558)

Rushing Yards:     Jonathan Stewart (770)

Receiving Yards:    Steve Smith (554)

Sacks:                Charles Johnson (12)

Interceptions:        Charles Godfrey (5)

Tackles:               James Anderson (130)


2010 No first-round selection

2009 No first-round selection

2008 Jonathan Stewart, RB (2010 stats:
770 rush yds., 2 TD)

Jeff Otah, OT (2010 stats: 0 games
played, ended season on IR)

2007 Jon Beason, LB* (2010 stats: 121
tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 FF)

2006 DeAngelo Williams, RB* (2010
stats: 361 rush yds., 1 TD in 6 games)


DA: The million-dollar question is… Which direction are the Panthers leaning in for the first pick? Furthermore, how much input will new head coach Ron Rivera have?

JP: They
will make the decision mutually. Rivera obviously will have a lot of
input on it. But I think ultimately the ront office will have the
final say. The feeling I get is that it will be someone on the
defensive line, either Fairley or Bowers. Given their needs, if they
drafted Clausen with their first pick [in the second round since they
didn’t have a first] last year and having invested a lot in him… if
they had a chance to get Luck, I think they would have gotten him.
But unless someone like a Gabbert or a Locker really jumps out at
them, it’s going to have to be a really special player for them to
use their first pick on a quarterback again.

DA: Any
chance they would look at A.J. Green?

JP: Potentially.
They like their young receivers, but the question mark there is Steve
Smith. There are rumblings that he might want out, even though he’s
under contract for a few more years. But especially given the CBA
uncertainty, I don’t know that there are going to be a lot of trades
being made over the next couple months. And if they get to the draft
without a new CBA, then nobody will be making trades. He’s the wild
card, but I think he’s going to end up staying in Charlotte which
would make Green extraneous.

DA: Would the Panthers consider trading the first pick?

JP: They
could, but I don’t think that’s their intention. Sure, anything’s
possible. They’ll listen to offers. They’ve got more needs than just
one. If they felt it was an opportunity to stockpile a couple more
picks… they don’t have a second-round pick, so I’m sure they’d love
the opportunity to get a second-round pick somewhere. Like I said if
Luck had gotten in the draft… they did a press conference shortly
after John Fox was let go, and Jerry Richardson said unequivocally
they were not looking to move the first pick. But that was when they
thought Luck was in the draft, so I think there would at least be
more of a chance of that happening now than previously.

DA: Was the John Fox
situation a distraction last year?

JP: Oh
yeah, big time. He was a lame duck all season, from the get-go. He
basically said he knew this was coming for two years when they chose
not to renew him. So it got to be a mess. They had made the step in
the franchise to make a commitment to young players. They felt like
they kind of went as far as they could with guys like Jake Delhomme
and Muhsin Muhammad and a bunch of other veterans; they made Julius
Peppers a generous offer and he decided to move on. They said look,
we drafted these young guys so let’s take a look at them. Well, Fox
isn’t keen on playing young players. The most infamous example was
when they had one week where both their quarterbacks, Matt Moore and
Jimmy Clausen, were hurt, and they brought in Brian St. Pierre. He
had been with the team less than a week, gotten about four practices,
and so even though management was fine going with rookie Tony Pike,
Fox felt otherwise. There were a lot of examples of that. Richardson
mentioned that at his press conference too, that there was a
disconnect between the front office’s philosophy and Fox’s stance on
playing young kids.

DA: Has Rivera made any proclamations since taking the job?

JP: He
basically said something at his press conference that they wanted to
have competition at the quarterback position. He didn’t throw Clausen
under the bus, but nor did he give him any kind of ringing

DA: Given the question marks surrounding Clausen, is it possible
Matt Moore starts next season?

don’t think so. Talking with people around the organization, I think
it’s pretty well understood that he’s going to be gone.

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